Extinct 2000-Year-Old Seed Found In A Clay Jar Brought Back To Life

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Judean’s date palm trees were one of the most recognized and welcoming sights for people living in the Middle East, as the trees provided shade in the blister desert sun as well as sweet fruit.

From its founding around 3,000 years ago, the trees were a staple crop in the Kingdom of Judea. Judean palm trees served as one of the kingdom’s chief symbols of good fortune and regarded as a symbol of the region and its fertility, and used as an aphrodisiac and valued for its medicinal qualities.

Kind David named his daughter Tamar, which is what the plant is called Hebrew.

The only example of a Judean Date Palm located at Kibbutz Ketura, Israel. It was germinated in 2005 from a 2000-year-old seed found in the Masada excavations, and is nicknamed “Methuselah”.

Photo credi: DASonnenfeld ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

In the New Testament, Jesus followers’ had laid date palm leaves at his feet when he and his donkey came journeying into Jerusalem.

The forests flourished with a staple crop to the Judean economy. When the Roman Empire sought to seize control of the kingdom, the plants became extinct for the sake of victory.

Fortunately, archaeologists found a batch of the seeds of the tree, which was preserved in a clay jar in the 1960s before they disappeared completely, in the ruins of Herod the Great’s palace.

After collecting dust in a university drawer for decades, desert agriculture expert Elaine Solowey was propositioned by an archaeologist to germinate them.

She assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time, yet she took on the challenge.

Solowey soaked the seeds in hot water as well as a solution of enzymatic fertilizer and nutrients.

In January of 2005, she planted them in pots, and in March, one sprouted, becoming the oldest known tree seed to germinate.

Solowey hopes to build an orchard of ancient dates for her and her colleagues to study and see if they have any unusual medicinal properties.

It appears that the Judean Date Palm has been resurrected and thriving.

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